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Aug. 22, 2005, 1:37PM

Mexican cattle business linked to drug cartels
Animals sold to Texas ranchers by 2 companies can be seized

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department, trying to block an elaborate money-laundering scheme, has announced that two Mexican cattle companies are fronts for drug-trafficking cartels.

The action means that cattle sold by the companies to Texas ranchers after Friday's announcement are subject to seizure by the federal government, said a high-ranking Treasury official who asked not to be named.

"Cattle already purchased and owned before the companies were identified as tied to the drug cartels are not going to suddenly be blocked," the official said.

The Treasury Department plans to inform cattle associations and other groups later this week of the action taken against the Mexican companies, officials said. The Treasury also will provide other information, such as the brands used by the cattle companies linked to the drug cartels.

For now, buyers are expected to practice due diligence when purchasing cattle.

Two Mexican drug cartels were named in the Treasury Department's statement, the Arriola Marquez organization and the Arellano Felix cartel based in Tijuana. The Arriola Marquez group, based in Mexico's Chihuahua state, is linked to Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the department said. Guzman leads one of the factions fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo and its smuggling routes into Texas, officials have said.

'Another blow' to cartels
Treasury officials said the Arriola Marquez group developed the idea of laundering cash from drug deals by buying large herds of cattle in Mexico.

Identifying the companies laundering drug money "deals another blow to the notorious Mexican drug cartels by targeting their financial webs," said Robert Werner, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The two Mexican cattle companies named by the Treasury Department are Corrales San Ignacio S.P.R. de R.L. de C.V. and Del Nortes Carnes Finas San Ignacio S.A. de C.V., both of Mexico's Chihuahua state.

A U.S. company in Presidio called Corrales San Ignacio L.L.C. was identified by the Treasury Department as a "mirror" entity â€